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2023-05-04 at 01:28 #403014Nat QuinnKeymaster
The Department of Transport says South Africa’s only driving licence card printing machine has broken down and will take 2–3 weeks to repair.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the department said the breakdown occurred after “routine maintenance.”
The maintenance started on 5 April and ended on 19 April 2023.
“Thereafter the technical team encountered a technical breakdown which requires a replacement of a critical part from the Original Equipment Manufacturer,” it said.
The department assured driving licence card production would not be affected by the routine maintenance.
“The Department has therefore encouraged members of the public to continue applying for their driving licence card as normal,” it said.
South Africa’s driving licence card printing machine has been in and out of action at least twice over the past two years, causing significant backlogs.
When news broke of the first outage, South Africans also learned that the country only had one printing machine.
Automobile Association of South Africa spokesperson Layton Beard explained that the country only has one machine to avoid giving corrupt officials a gap to flood the country with fraudulent driver’s licences.
Beard said that despite the Department of Transport being proactive in rooting out corruption at Driving Licence Testing Centres (DLTCs), problems still exist within its ranks.
“You don’t want to have a situation where the printing of licence cards is farmed out to the DLTCs,” stated Beard.
“You may find yourself in a worse position in terms of illegal driving license cards that are in circulation.”
Then-transport minister Fikile Mbalula also explained that South Africa’s current printing machine is very old — likely the last one still in operation and supported by its German manufacturer.
South Africa’s current driving licence cards have been in use since 1998, and Mbalula said the country would soon be getting a revamped driver’s licence card and, with it, new machines.
Fikile Mbalula, former Minister of Transport, during a visit to the Driving Licence Card Account in January 2022
Mbalula explained last year that the only hurdle to introducing the new driver’s licence cards was approval from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.
Cabinet finally approved the new driving licence card in early September 2022, and Mbalula said the new system would begin its pilot phase in November 2023.
Mbalula said the current licence card and printing machine would be decommissioned on 1 April 2024.
After that, there would be a five-year transition period from the old card to the new one.
The Department of Transport issued the tender for the provision of a turnkey solution for smart licence cards on 10 November 2022.
This included providing, installing, and maintaining a new machine on a five-year contract.
Civil action group Outa said the closing date for the tender was 30 November — just 20 days after publication — although this was subsequently extended.
It is unclear who has bid for the tender or whether it has been awarded.
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